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Apple's Change of Heart On Flash 409

Posted by kdawson
from the platform-with-a-capital-p dept.
Dotnaught writes "In a blog post, Walter Luh, co-founder of Ansca Mobile and a former employee of both Apple and Adobe, recounts how Apple once promoted Flash on the iPhone then changed its mind because Flash didn't provide the optimal mobile user experience. 'I think that Apple came to the same conclusion I've come to — namely that Flash has its strengths, but not when it comes to creating insanely great mobile experiences,' he writes. Luh's piece ends with a pitch for mobile development using the Corona SDK, a Lua-based programming environment that strives to recapture the simplicity of early versions of Flash."
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Apple's Change of Heart On Flash

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  • Adobe Flash will die (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xororand (860319) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:07PM (#31048240)

    Adobe Flash will die rather sooner than later and it won't be missed. Now if only all browser vendors could agree on a video codec for HTML5.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:14PM (#31048300)

    What happens to open source browsers like FF who can't pay for the patents and licenses?

    Maybe HTML5 in Firefox should mean that I can right click and "save as". Then it won't really matter.

  • by ClaraBow (212734) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:16PM (#31048308)
    There isn't any reason why Flash should require a dual core processor just to barely run on the Mac. I use both Macs and PCs and the performance on the Mac side is horrible. Surely a company as large and as resource rich as adobe could have figured out how to program a flash plugin that is quick and lightweight. Is there something that I'm missing?
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:16PM (#31048310) Homepage Journal

    Agreed that Flash needs to be replaced, but not with HTML 5.

    What about all the browser applications written in flash? Will we just not have them?

  • by T-Bone-T (1048702) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:23PM (#31048356)

    Flash can't work very well on a phone because it was designed for computers. Computers have an ever-present pointing device called a mouse that is used to activate many Flash elements. How do you replicate that with a pointer that only exists long enough to click on something?

  • by Homburg (213427) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:35PM (#31048446) Homepage

    What patents and licenses? From the W3C's patent policy [w3.org]:

    The goal of this policy is to assure that Recommendations produced under this policy can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis.

    Of course, anything hypothetically could be patented; but HTML5 is at least in the position that there are no known patent restrictions on implementing it.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:43PM (#31048494) Journal

    ...security.

    Seriously - with all the active exploits out there that use Flash as a way into an operating system, I can very easily see a Flash bug being exploited to bust right through the iPhone's 'walled garden' setup (what with it's default root password and all...)

  • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:43PM (#31048498) Journal

    Is there something that I'm missing?

    Knowledge of how large companies stagnate. It's all bureaucratic BS.

    I'm sure there's a team at Adobe that wants to optimize flash - but they're probably being blocked by the higher ups that refuse to cut backwards compatibility.

    Flash performance is horrible on any computer. Youtube used to be smooth on my old 2.2ghz Athlon XP, but now it barely plays. Even my 3.5ghz Athlon II has occasional stutters.

  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @06:59PM (#31048588) Journal

    If anything, HTML5 is actually the cause that might allow pushing Linux and Firefox even further away.

    Basically the situation is currently this;

    Microsoft: H.264 for IE (and they are already licensing it in Windows 7). Will not support Theora.
    Apple: H.264 for all OS X, iPhone and iPad. Will not support Theora.
    Google: H.264 for Chrome (but not for the open source version!). May roll out their own video codec, to mix things even a little bit more.
    Mozilla: Theora for Firefox. There is no way they can use H.264 because of countless amount of open source forks. Could only possible support it in main binary Firefox, other users left without.
    Opera: Theora. Could support H.264, but wants Theora more.

    Develop a plugin that plays H.264 video inside browser to circumvent that Firefox situation? Flash already does exactly that.

    Either HTML5 Video will seriously fail and Flash will continue dominating, or the big players will use it to push Firefox and other open source browsers and Linux off the market.

  • by chill (34294) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:07PM (#31048632) Journal

    If you want an example, just look at ActiveX and IE6. I expect Flash to take the same route. A long, lingering, painful death.

  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:11PM (#31048654) Journal

    So basically you are implying that free and open source itself isn't a sustainable model? That to get full use of it, people should lower to piracy?

    Do you really expect to win a rigged game by playing by the rules?

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:24PM (#31048758)

    Agreed that Flash needs to be replaced, but not with HTML 5.

    For general "rich internet application" stuff, moving from proprietary Flash to standards-based HTML5 (+DOM/SVG/ECMAScript) should be good news for open source. The problem is not HTML 5 per se but that the only video codec that seems to be gaining widespread support in HTML 5 is the patent-encumbered H.264.

    Newer versions of Flash look like shifting H.264 as the codec for video anyway (albeit with different packaging), so Flash vs. HTML5 is a non-issue on the video front.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:45PM (#31048898)

    Gordon - An open-source Flash runtime in JavaScript+SVG [paulirish.com]

    This will happen.
    It is quite early, but i can bet this will be the future of Flash.
    There are no (huge) changes needed on the website, just some simple instructions to follow and you just future-proofed your website. (that is if Gordon becomes a full runtime in JS. Cross your fingers and toes)

    As JS becomes faster and faster each generation of browsers, it becomes a serious platform for development consideration.
    This is what i am currently doing with 2 games at the moment, working on 2nd right now actually. This one will be much easier to get done and put up before the first one i started on. (MMO vs single player game(+stats... maybe))
    Despite a lot of claims against it, "The Cloud" revolution is happening... again, but this time it is even more kickass and in your face than before.

  • by naz404 (1282810) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:56PM (#31048966) Homepage
    Regarding the HTML5 vs Flash video debacle, Radley Marx says it best on his blog post "Five Myths of HTML5 (vs. Adobe Flash)" [radleymarx.com]:

    The problem solved by Flash video wasnt can I show a video? Instead, Flash solved can everyone watch my video? HTML5 video doesnt provide this solution; it just adds another approach to the incompatibility pile.

    HTML5 isn't going to change things unless browser vendors agree on a common codec.

    Also, unless HTML5's video spec finds a way to implement DRM on video stream playback (which Flash does), studios and major media content providers who want to protect their content aren't going to bite on "HTML5 video".

  • by Pius II. (525191) <PiusII@@@gmx...de> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @07:56PM (#31048968)
    With all due respect, that's bullshit. VLC decodes Youtube's streams (saved to disk) at 13% CPU. Flash takes 90%. I don't have a graphics chip that could decode H264 in hardware (apart from being programmable thru OpenCL, to which Adobe has all access in the world). Apple not exposing any APIs (to what?) is a red herring. To me this looks like slowness in the Flash interpreter, a shoddy video codec they implemented, and pure lazyness.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @08:22PM (#31049160)

    I personally wish we didn't all walk into yet another propitiatory format though, because it's just history repeating itself.

    To name a name, GIF was exactly the kind of submarine pain in the ass that this has the potential to become.
    Wait until the format becomes ubiquitous to the point of being a necessity, then blackmail practically every large commercial web-related software vendor.
    This wouldn't be nearly so much of a problem if we had a good replacement, of course. Dirac looked promising, but the implementation will need a lot of tuning and optimization before we can even tell if it's any good.

  • by naz404 (1282810) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @09:02PM (#31049406) Homepage
    I read somewhere that Google isn't not going to use Ogg Theora on YouYube because it isn't as efficient as H.264 and would eat up too much storage space on their datacenters. A user comment at Mozillazine blog post "Video, Freedom And Mozilla" [mozillazine.org] gives a few good points:

    TK: I think that the fact that Google only enabled h.264 HTML5 video on youtube has more to do with the fact that all their videos were already encoded in that format (at 3 different resolutions), for iPhone and Android support. Therefore, it was relatively easy to just turn on the switch for beta HTML5 embedding.

    Transcoding all those videos to Ogg Theora (with multiple copies for SD, HQ and HD) would require a major computing effort and storage space availability, that, sadly, just isnt worth it at this point. Remember, it took MONTHS in 2007 for youtube to transcode all of their h.263 FLV videos to h.264 mp4's for iPhone support. And that was before Youtube added 720p and 1080p HD video support. They'd literally have to double their datacenters' storage space!!

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @09:57PM (#31049668) Homepage

    There's no reason the plugin experience can't be "seamless". This is just mindless fear mongering.

  • Re:All about money. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:46PM (#31049840)

    Interesting how Hulu (and others) provide free flash videos while the iTunes store provides videos for sale.

    Hulu has already stated they're going to start charging in 2010.

    There's no such thing as a free lunch.

  • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:44PM (#31050146)
    My first thought was Flash is the reason for the death of ActiveX...
  • by node 3 (115640) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @12:08AM (#31050246)

    If firefox can be pointed to youtube and videos don't play

    That already happens. Mozilla doesn't use the IE Flash plugin, you have to install it yourself.

    and there is no obvious solution to make them play

    There's no reason, other than political, that Firefox can't show a missing plug-in icon, just like with Flash, that redirects to an h.264 plugin.

  • It did, they have (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @01:05AM (#31050490)

    Flash solved can everyone watch my video?

    That is totally true. And much like Apple solved the "have to have DRM around online music sales" by being the only place to sell music (forcing studios to drop DRM in order to control price), Flash has thankfully gotten us to the point where everyone can watch video, encoded in h.264 (that's what the online flash video is almost all encoded in these days).

    Flash made a great scaffolding, but it is time to drop that scaffolding and use a solution that is more performant and truly cross platform - h.264. And why is it more cross-platform? Because more chips that decode it in hardware mean more devices that can play that format than any format that would need a powerful CPU for decoding. The fact is it can simply run on way more platforms.

    HTML5 isn't going to change things unless browser vendors agree on a common codec.

    They have, it's h.264. That is all major browser vendors but one - Mozilla. While it's nice they are trying to take a stand and I have to admire them for that, the reality is Chrome will take away ALL of Mozilla's userbase in short order unless they go with the flow on this issue.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday February 07, 2010 @01:39AM (#31050652) Journal

    Yeah, but Mozilla accepted it for Fennec only. They don't want it in desktop builds, because it'd let you use the "evil" H.264.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 07, 2010 @01:48AM (#31050688)

    34% seems a bit optimistic.

    On my Macbook (late 2006 Core2 - probably the same CPU as that Mac Mini uses), Flash itself uses somewhere around 95% of one core when playing video. Any video. It doesn't actually matter how large the video is (although HD videos are unwatchable), or what clock speed the CPU is running at, the CPU usage is basically constant.

    No other media players (VLC, QuickTime), browser plugins (QuickTime, Flip4Mac), or even Safari's HTML5 video support do this. Since the likes of QuickTime perform far better when embedded in a web page than Flash does, that rules out a problem with the plugin interface. Safari's HTML5 video performance rules out the browser's rendering too - HTML5 videos are much more integrated into the page than a plugin, with all the extra rendering complexity that involves, and they're still faster.

    It's not just a raw performance problem. They'd have to be doing busy waits, or polling loops, or something else stupid. It wouldn't surprise me if they were measuring performance based on Flash itself, running stand-alone, while the actual problem is in their plugin code.

    Complaining that the performance of Flash on Mac OS X is somehow Apple's fault is just crap. I've heard many claims that Flash video is slower on Mac OS X due to lack of h.264 hardware acceleration. Of course, the Windows version only got this very recently, and Flash video ran just fine on Windows before that. QuickTime runs fine without it. Both Safari and Chrome can play h.264 videos just fine without it. Same goes for the complaints about the plugin model. If it really were that bad, why doesn't Silverlight have the same problems? For that matter, which doesn't the plugin (not ActiveX) version on Windows have the same problem - the plugin API is pretty much the same, after all.

    Adobe's claims that Flash has no known crashing bugs are a load of crap too. According to Apple's crash reports from Safari, Flash is responsible for the majority of crashes. According to Mozilla's crash report data, Flash is responsible for the majority of crashes in Firefox on Mac OS X.

    Anecdotally, Firefox crashes on me two or three times a day. Of those crashes, I've only ever found one that was caused by Firefox itself - all the rest were caused by Flash. I've actually had to switch to Chrome (which, for various reasons, I don't like as much as Firefox) specifically because of Flash crashing so much. Now, I get the sad plugin box two or three times a day. I've never seen the sad tab page, and I've only had Chrome itself crash once. And this is the developer channel version, which is expected to break.

    And then there's the bugs. Many Flash widgets, particularly video players, just don't work reliably on a Mac. All too often, I've had video streams that just refuse to play, or which keep stopping to buffer when there's still several minutes of video left in the buffer, or completely break if you attempt to seek... They all work just fine on the Windows version, of course.

    That's just the Mac version. The Linux version of Flash is actually far worse. It's even slower than the Mac version, crashes more frequently, has all the same bugs as the Mac version, and then has a whole load of bugs of it's own.

    Frankly, anyone who claims that Flash is cross-platform has clearly never actually used Flash on any platform other than Windows.

  • That's all fine and dandy but all of the Safari crashs I've had in the past 2 years have been flash plug in related.

    Secondly, watching a YouTube video at 480p on my 2.5GHz Core2 Duo takes ~35% of the CPU time available. Watching the same video using the HTML5 version, ~3% of the CPU time available. Even if they did drop it down to 16%, that is still a lot to make vertical mobile Hardware/Software vendors cringe at the power consumption.

    Flash is cool because it has a large enough install base at this point you can say it is a compatible way to display rich media in a web page that displays on 99% of the computers in the US. I can't think of any other good things about flash, even if they fix the horrible CPU usage.

  • Re:It did, they have (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 07, 2010 @06:31AM (#31051414)

    They have, it's h.264. That is all major browser vendors but one - Mozilla.

    IE supports H264 in Windows 7 but not elsewhere. Firefox doesn't support H264 anywhere. Those are the major browser vendors. The smaller players seem to be similarly divided: Safari and Chrome do but Opera does not.

    While it's nice they are trying to take a stand and I have to admire them for that, the reality is Chrome will take away ALL of Mozilla's userbase in short order unless they go with the flow on this issue.

    I think Mozilla should use the underlying OS codecs (just for technical reasons) even if it means people using H264 without knowing it but your logic really fails: Mozilla has made decisions like this before, basically trying to do the right thing even if it breaks sites, and it hasn't killed them so far.

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